Macedonia’s new government has to continue making progress on necessary reforms, or it risks losing its recommendation to start accession talks with the EU, Europe’s Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fule, said, after meeting Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in Brussels.
In Brussels, Gruevski met his Greek counterpart George Papandreou, with whom, according to Macedonian A1 TV, the issue of the new statue of Alexander the Great, erected this week in Skopje, was raised.
“The European Commission made a recommendation to start accession negotiations in October 2009. This recommendation is still in force and for it to continue to be valid the country needs to continue making progress on the necessary reforms,” Fule said after the talks.
Gruevski’s centre-right VMRO-DPMNE won the recent general election held on 5 June.
Fule praised the conduct of the elections and underlined that Macedonia “could be among those countries in the region that are leading the way towards deeper EU integration,” adding that it was “important for the country to get back to work”.
Europe’s shopping list for Macedonia includes reforms of the public administration and judiciary, a more efficient fight against corruption, freedom of the media and finally, a solution to the drawn-out “name” dispute with Greece.
In Brussels, Fule insisted that resolution of the name issue remains essential for the success of Macedonia’s accession talks.
After the meeting, though no statements were made, Macedonia’s Foreign Minister, Antonio Milososki, suggested that resolution of the name issue was possible in the near future, as was recently also stated in Brussels by the Hungarian Foreign Minister, Janos Martonyi, whose country presides over the EU Council until 1 July.
Citing diplomatic sources in Brussels, A1 TV reported that during the meeting between the Greek and Macedonian leaders, Papandreou said Greece would like Macedonia to progress on its EU path.
But Greece wants Macedonia to show greater political goodwill in respect to the name dispute.
Athens also thinks that the erection of the statue of Alexander poses questions about the will of Macedonia to advance towards the EU. Greece insists that Alexander is a purely Hellenic figure and so belongs to Greece.
The equestrian statue of the ancient hero was erected on Tuesday on top of a 10-metre-high fountain. The complete structure reaches 24 metres into the skyline.
Macedonia has so far officially described the sculpture simply as an equestrian warrior, not mentioning that the warrior in question is Alexander the Great.
In 2008 Greece prevented Macedonia’s accession to NATO over the unresolved name dispute. In 2009, Greece also prevented the EU from extending a date for a start to Macedonia’s EU accession talks.
Macedonia’s relations with Athens are already strained by the two-decade-long row over Macedonia’s name, to which Greece objects. Athens says use of the name “Macedonia” implies a territorial claim to the northern Greek province, also called Macedonia.